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Trapped miners in Chile begin receiving cigarettes

September 13, 2010 | 12:39 pm

Fuerza mineros chile miners

The 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet underground in a mine in Chile have persuaded officials to meet one of their most ardent requests since making contact with the surface: cigarettes. The regional governor in Atacama, where the San Jose mine is located, told reporters this weekend that the miners will now receive two cigarette packs a day, or 40 smokes, to ration among them.

"We're ready to do what we can to lift the miners' spirits," said Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich. A doctor in the rescue operation told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the miners were "responsible people" who could administer the cigarettes on their own.

The decision to send down smokes came after ventilation was improved in the shelter where the miners await their rescue. Previous measures to alleviate the miners' craving for cigarettes, nicotine patches and gum, were not effective, reports said.

The men are still not being allowed alcohol, however, another request they've insisted on.

"For tobacco companies chafing at advertising restrictions it could be a promotional dream, though it was not immediately known which brand was delivered, nor how many of the miners smoke," reported the Guardian.

The miners have been trapped underground since Aug. 5. Three holes are now being dug concurrently to reach them, but that's not expected to occur until November or even Christmas. As reported previously on La Plaza, the Chile mine rescue effort is now considered one of the most complex and difficult rescue efforts in history. Experts from NASA have been brought in to assess and advise on the effort. (The NASA people had recommended against cigarettes for the men.)

The miners are also expected to begin receiving electricity to improve lighting in the shelter and help the miners' sleeping patterns. They are also beginning an exercise regimen.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A message of 'Be strong, miners!' adorns a structure at the San Jose mine surface camp for rescuers and relatives. Credit: Associated Press